Monthly Archives: January 2016

Cover Reveal and Interview: HOTEL BRUCE by Ryan T. Higgins

I am honored today to feature my good friend Ryan T. Higgins on my blog today.

Coming October 18, 2016 from Disney Hyperion, a reappearance from a grumpy old bear we’ve all grown to love… that’s right, Mother Bruce is coming back!

When Bruce gets home from a southern migration trip with his goslings, he is tired. He is grumpy. And he is definitely not in the mood to share his home with the trio of mice who have turned his den into a hotel.

There’s a possum pillow fight wreaking havoc in one room, a fox luring guests into a stew in the kitchen, and a snuggly crew of critters hogging the bed. Bruce growls and grumbles and tries to throw them all out, but the entrepreneurial mice just can’t take a hint. Bruce is in a little over his head, especially once the goslings join the staff. Will this grumpy bear ever get his quiet, peaceful den back to himself?

And now… welcome, Ryan T. Higgins!

Hello, Ryan, thank you for joining me for an interview and to show readers everywhere an exclusive look at your Fall 2016 book, Hotel Bruce, from Disney-Hyperion!
Thank you for having me! This is a cozy place you have here.

Tell us a little bit about Hotel Bruce.
Hotel Bruce is the sequel to Mother Bruce. It’s the story of how Bruce, the grumpy old bear, comes home from his annual winter vacation (see Mother Bruce for details) to discover that three mice have moved into his house and turned it into a bustling woodland hotel. Bruce doesn’t like visitors — or really much of anything — and I couldn’t resist filling his home with as many guests as possible…just to see what happened. I laughed all the way through making this book and really hope Bruce’s readers get a little chuckle out of it when it hits the shelves.

If I were looking for a perfect vacation spot, what would a stay at Hotel Bruce consist of?
Well, that depends on who you ask. Bruce wouldn’t want any visitors. He’d tell you to stay somewhere else. The mice that turned Bruce’s house into a hotel, on the other hand, would describe the tranquility of staying in a natural setting. They’d probably say something about the fresh woodland air and the serene sounds of the wilderness, the smell of aged moss, the beautiful sun-dappled breakfast nook, the first-rate cook, and the plethora of diverse guests. They’d tell you that you could enjoy sleeping in late or you could benefit from an early morning wakeup call. They’d also tell you to pay no attention to the grumpy looking bear over there in the corner.

When you were writing Mother Bruce, did you intend to write a sequel/series, or at what point did this idea cross your mind?
It was not my intention to make a series when I started making Mother Bruce. I didn’t have any plan, except to make a book that made me laugh. The grumpy bear that strolled out of my head, and the little geese that followed him, forced my hand. They wouldn’t let me NOT make a sequel. I may have come up with Bruce and the geese, but they’re running the show now. I’m just along for the ride to see where these critters go next.

Have you always been this funny?
Gosh! No! Not in person, anyway. I’m incredibly dull and uninteresting. I try to be funny. But when I try, it almost never works. It’s when I think I’m being serious that people laugh the most.

My best jokes are accidents. I started to notice this late in high school. I had to give an address at my graduation and I wrote what I thought was this profound and insightful speech that would change people’s world views. Instead, everyone was rolling around and laughing through my entire speech. They all congratulated me afterward on my comedic genius. That’s when I knew I had no future in speech writing.

I developed a reputation for being funny in college while having a conversation with the painting professor. He was talking about how he owned a beautiful antique bicycle and how he was planning on painting it soon. I (very seriously) said, “…umm… so what color is your bicycle now?” thinking he meant he was going to physically paint his bike another color. He laughed and laughed and thought I was quite the comedian. It stuck. I’ve been accidentally making jokes ever since.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?
I can’t smell. No…I smell, but my nose doesn’t. No…I mean I am unable to smell things. I was born without a sense of smell.

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d be living in Alaska, studying Kodiak bears. Or maybe in Africa, studying baboons. Or maybe Canada, studying wolves. My degree is in ecology — not illustration or writing (you can tell by my terrible use of grammar). I’ve always had this pie-in-the-sky dream of writing and illustrating my own stories, but I also wanted a good backup plan if kids’ books didn’t pan out. I still love studying animals and animal science. Maybe I’ll retire soon and go live with bears. We’ll see.

What can readers expect from you in the future?
More Bruce books! AND a few other books on the side.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?
I’d like to share my family’s secret recipe for salmon loaf… But I can’t. It’s secret.

Thank you, Ryan for joining me here, and please give Bruce my best!
Oh, I will…when he gets back from Miami. Thank you so much for inviting me in!

Look for Hotel Bruce in stores everywhere on October 18, 2016!

And now… a look at the cover!

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A Youngster Yawns: A Review of Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

A yawn. Nothing more than opening one’s mouth wide, and inhaling deeply. A usual occurrence when someone is tired or lacking sleep.

There’s also a phenomenon that seeing someone yawn or hearing about yawns can trigger a yawn. Science (from what I know) has no answer for why this happens.

But, we do know what causes Lucy to yawn in the upcoming title from Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo, Twenty Yawns. (Published by Two Lions).

What’s more exciting for a child than a day at the beach? There’s the digging. And the building. And the playing in the water. There’s the walking. And exploring. And tumbling and rolling. Not to mention, all of this while being under the rays of the hot summer sun.

So, it’s only natural to feel tired, and let out a little yawn at the end of a beach day. Evening has come. It’s time to clean up and cozy up. It’s almost time for bed.

And Castillo so beautifully paints us a beautiful summer sunset. One so beautiful, we can only dream about, and count ourselves as lucky to actually witness such a sunset in person.

The sun sets and it is dark, and it is time for bed. While mom begins to read Lucy a story, mom’s eyes grow heavy. The yawns catch up with her, and soon she is off in dreamland. Lucy soon joins her, but awakes to the uncomfortable silence and glare of the moonlight in the window. Off she goes in search of her bear. She decides it’s not only necessary to bring the bear to bed, but the whole host of stuffed animals that occupy her shelves. As they all snuggle in for the night, Lucy finds a sense of contentment.

Some people toss and turn and can’t fall asleep at night. As days get busy, worries multiply, and stresses abound, it’s hard to find that sense of contentment at night when your head hits the pillow.

But Lucy finds that sense. She is comfortable, She is thankful. And so that ultimate sense of peace so many of us long for overwhelms Lucy, and she so contentedly lets out that final yawn, and falls into deep slumber.

Is there a better feeling than to be snuggled in with your head on a soft pillow, knowing how much you have to be thankful for, and how much your friends and family love you?

The story told here is not a typical bedtime story; it’s a story which so delicately combines  just the right tones of color in the illustrations, coupled with the delicate language from Jane Smiley.

Add this book to your collection, celebrate the sweetness of slumber, yawn, and fall fast asleep.

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Worth Something Someday: A Review of Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig

When I was working with young children, and they’d give me a piece of artwork, I’d always ask them to sign it for me. I said “I’ll keep it because someday you’ll be famous!”

I wasn’t saying it sarcastically; I was saying it because I believed in each and every one of them.

Other people say things like, “Can I take your picture so I can say I knew you back before you were famous?”

You never know the path a person’s life will take. Some have great, grand adventures in front of them that they never dreamed of. But it happens.

In Beatrix Potter & The Unforgettable Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, we hear a true tale of Beatrice’s childhood… before she was famous. This memoir, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Charlotte Voake, takes us way back in time to Beatrix’s younger days. The days where she was known for her bad luck with animals.

It wasn’t intentional; for instance, one time her snails were sleeping and she just found it would be so cruel to water them at that time.

I don’t have to tell you how they ended up.

When Beatrice isn’t loving animals, she is off drawing and painting in watercolors. (I loved that this book was done in ink and watercolor). She wants to paint a special guinea pig, so she borrows a very distinguished one from her neighbor Miss Nina Paget.

I won’t spoil the story, but the poor guinea pig wound up with the same fate as the snails.

Beatrice realizes she must apologize. So she brings Miss Paget the guinea pig, accompanied by an original watercolor illustration of the guinea pig.

Years later, a painting Beatrix did of a guinea pig sold for thousands of pounds.

We’re left to draw our own conclusions, but author Deborah Hopkinson warns us to hang on to those pieces of art. You never know when someone might be famous.

This story is perfect for fans of Beatrix Potter and will be a gem you want to add to your collection. Coming this spring from Random House.

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The Best Discovery of All: A Review of Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson

No mountain is too tall if you have a friend by your side to climb it.

When readers first open Cale Atkinson’s upcoming Explorers of the Wild, they are welcomed with a reassuring truth about friendship. This powerful portrayal of friendship is right on the inner jacket flap.

If the cover wasn’t enough to draw you in, that quote will do it. Cale’s design and development of two characters- a boy and a bear- lure readers into what turns out to be a warm book about friendship and sticking together.

Spread by spread, we see the boy exploring one part of the scenery, and the bear the other. It becomes obvious that the boy and the bear are unaware of each others’ presence.

Both share a mission, and a passion, and a vision: to explore the wild, find neat and strange things, confident that they are explorers, prepared for anything.

They do what any explorer would do- climb over trees, roll down hills, run, and run.

And, as it was bound to happen, the two explorers run into each other. It is at this moment that we see from the facial expressions Cale so carefully depicted that a sense of fear and uncertainty sank in. Suddenly, two brave explorers question their confidence in themselves, and whether or not they are really brave.

But then something else happens. The two realize what is common among them. The desire to explore, investigate, and conquer their fears. And so together they set off, finding new things to explore and experience for the first time- together.

And suddenly, as all good things must, their day comes to an end. The boy must head to his family, and the bear to his family. And it is within the last two pages that we see how two un-alikes, (yet very alikes) capture the moment of their day.

And their greatest discovery of all- a new friend.

Atkinson has once again used his illustration techniques to paint readers a picture of the different ambiances of the woods, and the bond of friendship through the expressions on the characters.

This new title, coming soon from Disney Hyperion, is one you’ll want to add to your collection about friendships, bravery, and exploring the unexpected.

Because you might just find your new best friend.

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Coming Soon: 2016 Picture Books Part THREE

It’s time to share the third part of the Coming Soon picture books blog posts. I had not intended to do four parts, but part three is so large, that I am worried it will crash before I get part four done. (There are over 50 titles here)… So, look for part four in February! I believe that we truly have a lot to look forward to in 2016!

Did you miss part one? Click here to view it.

Did you miss part two? Click here to view it. 

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